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Organizing the Programs Menu

When you install an application the installation process creates a new item on the Programs menu. Although this item appears automatically you can modify it. For example, items on the Programs menu can be removed, reorganized, or renamed. While you can modify the Programs menu using the same procedure that customizes the Start menu, you will have greater flexibility if you use the following technique to directly modify the folders and shortcuts on which the Programs menu is based.

The Programs menu is a reflection of the contents of a Programs folder. You can find this folder under Windows\Start Menu if you are the only person using the computer or if everyone that uses your computer shares the same Start Menu and Program groups. If the computer has multiple user profiles, and the individual users do not share the same Start Menu and Program groups, the appropriate Programs folder for a specific user is found under Windows\Profiles\username\Start Menu.

To see if all users on your computer share the same start Menu and Program groups:

  1. In Control Panel, click on the Passwords icon.
  2. In the Passwords Properties box, select the User Profiles tab.
  3. If the Include Start menu and Program groups in user settings check-box is selected, then each user on your computer will have their own selection of program group icons. Note that this option is only available if you first select the Users can customize their preferences and desktop settings option is selected first.


A simple way to make sure you are modifying the correct Program menu is to log in to Windows with the user name whose Programs menu you want to change. Right-click in the gray area of the Taskbar and choose Properties. Select the Start Menu Programs tab, then click the Advanced button. This displays an Explorer Window that is restricted to the appropriate Start Menu. You can modify and reorganize the Start menu or Program menu by modifying folders and shortcuts in this Explorer. To work on just the Programs menu, open and select the Programs folder in the left Explorer pane. The folder hierarchy and shortcut names you see displayed in the right pane are used to create the Program menu. Use normal Explorer techniques for modifying folders and files, which will modify the Program menu.

Create new submenus under the Programs menu by creating new folders in the right pane. Drag and drop program shortcuts into these folders to reorganize them. Delete folders you do not want, but make sure you first remove shortcut icons you want to retain.

Change Program menu item names by selecting the folder or file, pressing F2, and editing or typing a new name. Reorder files and folders by renaming them. Windows sorts the folder and shortcut names in alphanumeric order to decide the order in which they display on the Programs menu. To reorganize the Programs menu, change the names to give the sort order you want. For example, if you want Microsoft Word to appear in the menu before Microsoft Excel and you want their names shortened, change the shortcut names to 1 Word and 2 Excel. You can also start shortcut names with special characters such as "!", "_", and "$" which will sort before any shortcuts that start with a letter or a number.